Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels agree ceasefire

2014-09-05 17:02
Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a Brics group leaders sumit in Fortaleza, Brazil. (AFP)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a Brics group leaders sumit in Fortaleza, Brazil. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Minsk - Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels agreed a ceasefire on Friday, the first step towards ending a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst stand-off between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended.

The deal, taking effect from 15:00 GMT, was agreed at peace talks with representatives of Russia and the OSCE security and rights group in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

"The entire world longs for peace, the whole of Ukraine longs for peace, including millions of residents of (rebel-held) Donbass," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a written statement.

"Human life is the highest value. We must do everything possible and impossible to end the bloodshed and put an end to people's suffering," he said, adding that he had ordered his armed forces to cease hostilities at 18:00 (15:00 GMT).

Sergei Taruta, the pro-Kiev governor of the Donetsk region at the heart of the rebellion, told Reuters he was hopeful the deal would hold, but a senior rebel leader said the separatists still wanted a formal split from Ukraine.

"The ceasefire does not mean the end of [our] policy to split [from Ukraine]," Igor Plotnitsky, a leader of the Luhansk region, told reporters.

The terms of the deal were not immediately known but the sides indicated this week that a humanitarian corridor would be created for refugees and aid, a prisoner exchange would take place, and rebuilding work would begin in conflict areas.

In a sudden breakthrough this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and Poroshenko had broadly agreed on steps towards a resolution of the conflict, and he set out a seven-point proposal end to end the five-month-old conflict.

Fighting continued even after the talks began, with mortar and artillery fire echoing on the edge of Donetsk, the rebels' main stronghold in eastern Ukraine, and clashes around the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

The rebels told Reuters some of their forces had entered Mariupol but a military spokesperson in Kiev said Ukrainian forces were still in control of the city, a gateway to Ukrainian territories further south.

Putin backs deal

Fighting began in largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine in mid-April, shortly after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula following the removal of a Ukrainian president sympathetic to Moscow and Kiev shifted policy towards the European Union.

A ceasefire in June lasted 10 days but officials in Kiev hoped the new accord would bring a more lasting peace because it had the backing of Putin and Poroshenko.

Nato leaders have voiced deep caution about talk of a ceasefire, especially because of the timing, as Nato holds a summit in Wales and EU leaders consider more economic sanctions on Moscow over the crisis.

They say previous statements on securing peace have proved to be "smokescreens for continued destabilisation of Ukraine".

By pushing for a ceasefire this week, Poroshenko changed his position after the tide turned in the conflict and Ukrainian troops were beaten back by a resurgent rebel force which the West says has received military support from Russia.

Moscow denies arming the rebels or sending in Russian troops, but Poroshenko appears worried he cannot now defeat the rebels and needs time to tackle a growing economic crisis and prepare for a parliamentary election.

Putin for the first time this week put his name to a concrete peace plan, proposing seven steps which would leave rebels in control of territory that accounts for about one tenth of Ukraine's population and an even larger share of its industry. It would also require Ukraine to remain unaligned.

Although the Kremlin leader may not have secured all his goals, he had reason to secure a settlement because of the growing impact of sanctions on Russia's stuttering economy.


Public support for Putin is high because of the seizure of Crimea, a Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine 70 years ago, but this could change if the conflict drags on and many Russians are killed.

Putin's key goals appear now to be to ensure Ukraine, a country of more than 40 million where Moscow has long had major influence, does not join Nato and that the eastern regions of Ukraine win much more autonomy.

Although Poroshenko still calls for Crimea to be part of Ukraine, there is little chance of Russia giving it up. Moscow can also hope to maintain influence in eastern Ukraine if a peace deal seals the rebels' territorial gains, creating a "frozen conflict" that ensures Ukraine is hard to govern.

Indicating his readiness for a deal, Putin said last week Poroshenko was a man he could "do business with", a suggestion he has decided that having Poroshenko in power is preferable to others in Kiev whom Moscow describe as the "party of war".

The ceasefire is expected to be monitored by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Read more on:    petro poroshenko  |  russia  |  ukraine

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.